Happy Hippos on Holiday
Hi everyone! Greetings to you all from Uruguay! The border crossing from Argentina to Uruguay was in no way as traumatic as our Paraguay experience...although the run up was a little...bizarre! The service station where we were expecting to be dropped off at 6am turned out to be a wooden hut with a lone taxi outside. Fortunately the helpful bus driver explained to us where we needed to go and passed the same message onto the taxi driver. All went smoothly and we got to the bus station at the border town of Concordia in time to catch the first bus over to Salto, a thermal springs resort in Uruguay. On arrival, we went off in search of some local cash...as ever with our trusty knapsacks on our back...easier said than done when all the ATMs in town were devoid of money! An hour later...cue emergency US dollars!!! Armed with our newly converted Uruguayan pesos, we caught a bus to our chosen hotel...and luck was again with us when we secured the last available room on arrival. The hotel was gorgeous, with its own thermal pools in the grounds, and we unanimously voted it top of our "Best Accommodation" list (see UK postcards for more on this and other "bests" from the trip so far). We were, however, slightly put out by the receptionist who suggested that, whilst we may not require the anti-ageing beauty treatments on offer, we might like to consider some of the excellent slimming treatments avaliable...hippo status reconfirmed!!! We politely declined and, undeterred, stripped down to our bikinis and hopped straight into the pools! We spent the rest of the day having fun at South America's first thermal aqua park (wooo!). That evening, we discovered the delights of Urugauyan wine...nuff said! Matt and Jon will be pleased, however, to know that we avoided the call of the jacuzzi that evening, though it made for a very relaxing diversion the following morning, before we caught the bus down to Montevideo. Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, is your basic city and had little on offer to hold our attention for long. We did, however, spend a pleasant day strolling around the avenues, squares and the riverside promenade alongside the "latte-coloured" waters of the Rio de la Plata (a very apt description provided by the trusty guidebook). The highlight of our stay came when we were wandering back to the hostel in the evening and saw a large crowd gathered outside the Radisson Hotel in the main square. Having heard that lots of important people would be arriving for the Presidential Inauguration...including our Prince Edward (or maybe Andrew...we had conflicting info) we decided to stop and join them. Shortly after, we were rewarded with the arrival of a princely figure. Kirstie was convinced it was Edward...or Andrew...or Edward, but when the excited crowd rushed forward chanting "Felipe, Felipe!", realisation dawned that it was neither. A passer-by confirmed for us that it was in fact Prince Felipe, the Prince of Spain. The next day (28 Feb) we caught a bus along the coast to the "exclusive" beach resort of Punta del Este (the St Tropez of South America)...and have been there ever since! On arrival, we were once again given a free tour of the local area, thanks to our continuing inability to get off buses at the right place. The hostel we had booked on the internet was tucked away and this, coupled with the fact that the bus driver had not heard of it, did not help our plight. We eventually found it, after several attempts and were delighted to find not only a large swimming pool in the garden, but also that we had a whole 8-bed dorm to ourselves (it being the end of the summer season). We had intended to stay only 2 or 3 days...but were so enjoying the location and the facilities that we decided to stay longer...we may leave on Monday! During our stay in Punta del Este, we have taken advantage of the free bikes available at the hostel and have been on several 25km bike rides along the coast, as well as walking, swimming, reading and just generally chilling. We attempted to sample the local nightlife with some of the other hostel guests, but the time we were out it was rather quiet. Things only seemed to be starting to kick off as we were heading home to bed...at 3am!!! Provided we don't extend our stay here even further, we should be arriving back in Argentina middle of next week (via Colonia del Sacramento). Will keep you updated... Hope you are all well. Keep up the messages and e-mails - we love hearing from you. Bye for now, Kirstie & Zena P.S. Special message for our Mumsie's...check out the Mothering Sunday postcard on the site, especially for you!